United States


What’s the big news today in my homeland? Black Friday shopping rage and football. You won’t find headlines on the growing possibility that the U.S. might be getting ready to start WWIII via Syria or on the impending collapse of the Euro and the likelihood that this will push the world’s economy over the cliff – again.

So just how out of touch with reality are people in the United States?

Anxiety is apparently not at all good for the tender souls in the States because while Time magazine treats adults in other parts of the world as thinking beings who need to know about the sweeping changes that are taking place and transforming our times, they shelter Americans with puffy fluff that is better suited for the pages of O Magazine or Cosmo.

It will be interesting when Americans wake up from their turkey and all night shopping induced comatose states, but in a Chinese curse kind of way, I think.


Or maybe just I am.

Dad’s first cousin on his mom’s side, Joe Fagan, got up in GOP hopeful Mitt Romney‘s eager to be POTUS face today on the subject of Medicare and Social Security. While I don’t disagree with Romney that given its current trajectory Medicare and SS benefits aren’t particularly sustainable given the current and projected worker to retired person ratio, I applaud Joe for exposing Romney for the corp whore twat he is.

“Corporations are people, my friend.”*

Dear Universe, hear me while I scream until my tonsils burst into flames.

My earliest memories of Joe are his visits when he was attending seminary in Dubuque. He would stop by in the evenings, sometimes bringing along a fellow classmate, and he and Dad would reminisce and argue about current events and politics. It was the late 1960’s. Joe was ten years younger than my Dad, who’d served in the Navy in the last months of WWII. To say that they disagreed in those turbulent times would be understating.

Joe admired Dr. King and supported Bobby Kennedy. Dad didn’t understand civil protests and voted for Nixon – every single time.

But Dad always said, “Joe stands up for what he believes is right.”

The organization Joe worked for in Des Moines for decades until his retirement not long ago has been accused of being “socialist”, which in Iowa – indeed anywhere in America these days – is code for “not American”. But they fought for the underprivileged, the working poor, the over-looked and the people who are and will continue to bear the brunt of the economic slide.

He never sought fame or power or riches. He was a working guy with a wife, who taught school before becoming a principal, and two kids.

By standing up and not letting Romney shush him with charm and platitudes, Joe Fagan was doing what every American has the right to do – question the motives of those who seek to lead us. To rule us.

Good on , cuz!

*This statement – destined to be a POTUS 2012 classic – is apparently already available on t-shirts with bumper stickers to follow I imagine.


Photo taken in the Yellowstone area.

Image via Wikipedia

Just saying. If you venture into Yellowstone National Park, be prepared to yield often and everywhere to the bison and those who worship them. Just like cows and monkeys roam with impunity in India, leaving jammed traffic and havoc in their wake, so go the Yellowstone bison.

Aided and abetted by park rangers, bison bring traffic to regular snarled standstills. The not quite 15 minute drive from the park’s west entrance to the turn off to Old Faithful took us nearly two hours thanks to a bison taking up a militant position on the only road. The situation was made more frustrating by the rubbernecking city folk who either stopped mid-road for extended photo-ops or  were too terrified to just drive around the beast.

Granted, living minutes literally from a national park stocked full of bison, I am a bit underwhelmed by the site of them now, but the thrill of Yellowstone was definitely dampened by the tourists acting like … tourists. I lost count of the number of times we were held up by the bison paparazzi, but I am sure the park ranger stuck with bison road patrol didn’t.  Same guy at nearly every pile-up.  At our first encounter, Rob rolled down the window to query about the cause of the hold up and the ranger was too deeply resigned to even roll his eyes when he said,

“Bison.”

But his body language clearly radiated a deep shuddering heavy sigh.  By the end of the day, we felt his pain.

We spent just a day circumnavigating Yellowstone. In some ways it is majestic but in others, it’s just protected area in the mountains. Call me spoiled.  Go ahead, really, because I am, but I have seen mountains and valleys.  I have seen bison and bear (and know better than to pull over and get out of the vehicle).  Rivers and peaks are part of my holiday experience much of the time.

What clearly stuck out were the bubbling pools of sulfuric water that steamed and fouled the air like the hallway outside a high school chemistry class on a late spring day.

Old Faithful was the last stop of our day. Rob reasoned, correctly, that most of the masses headed there first thing, so we circled the loop from the opposite direction, taking in the mountain views and waterfalls first. The traffic was lighter and less inclined to stop and take pictures.* That leg of the day was notable for a couple of things: the insanity at the food/camp & gift store areas** at lunch – the bus tour people were probably the worst but the young family that allowed their toddler and preschooler to chase after ground squirrels with hotdog bits made me feel so much better about my own parenting decisions when Dee was that age that I am sorry now I wondered aloud if the kids would need shots when they got bit (seriously, the signs about not feeding anything even if it looks hungry and cute are ignored at your own peril).

The other event involved an RV with Pennsylvania plates and a Steelers logo on the back that veered from center line to nearly non-existent shoulder with such speed that I kept the camera trained on them for several miles just in case they toppled over. It would have made excellent viral YouTube.

Rob’s visited Old Faithful before and noted the commercial build-up right away. It’s a tourist mecca. A boardwalk with benches semi-rings this steaming hole and as the witching hour approaches, they fill up quickly. And disperse just as fast. The geyser erupts about every hour and 15 minutes for a grand total of 4 minutes and 20ish seconds. It begins with a couple of sputters before climbing slowly, maintaining its “erection” for a half-minute and then subsiding in nearly the same manner as it ascended. By the time it reverted back to its smoldering state, nearly everyone was gone. It was kind of sad, and I wondered what it had been like back in the day. You know,  of yore, when being a tourist entailed some effort and discomfort.

My advice for Yellowstone is get there early or late. If you can get into the park by 7 or 8 in the morning, the traffic is lighter and the flip-flop crowd is still back at the KOA. Go around dinnertime and you will encounter the skeeter bitten paparazzi as they are heading back to the hotels and campgrounds, sunburned, stuffed with junk food and laden with cheap Chinese knickknacks.  Either way, you win.  If you travel with the pack, be prepared to stop often and ford the hordes at every destination.

*We ran across a huge group lining the road up and down and peering anxiously into a valley that appeared to be empty.

**There were two age groups of employees at these venues. So young that their relatively slow mental processes strained one’s patience and so freakishly old that I become concerned anew about the state of Social Security.


Jockey Retro Briefs

Image via Wikipedia

And puts me in the mood to rant and if I could, slap some people upside their bloated with nonsense heads.

Weinergate leaves me near to a tongue-tied rage. What the fuck? How can tweeting your, as my husband put it “Nothing to be all that proud of,” crotch shot to your entire feed by accident because you are an idiot who is cheating on his wife with star-struck groupies young enough to be your daughters and then lying about it for a week be morphed into a teary girly photo-op apology and justification for hanging onto your job?

And why are liberals, progressives and Independents who are too wise to fall for Republican garbage, defending your sorry ass?

Jon Stewart summed it up best – after he mocked the representative from New York without mercy – that if guilty, he had to resign. He delivered it in a “you’re dead to me” tone that fairly sums up Anthony Weiner’s usefulness to his beleaguered party now. He has no credibility and isn’t likely to crawl out of the hole he dug from himself with his penis anytime soon. Anyone who thinks otherwise is no better than the GOP apologists who excuse every moral mortal character flaw of their party’s representatives.

Hypocrisy thy name is also willful denial.

Apparently Weiner is harping on another great American hypocrite and sexually indiscreet aging man, supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as he gets ready to hear a case on the health care bill – which incidentally his wife is a lobbyist working hard to defeat. Conflict of interest thy name is also hypocrisy.

As I watch Sarah Palin scoot by any real media coverage while the Left Leaning stupidly underestimate her very real and growing stronger with the bad economy chances of weaseling herself a presidential nomination, I recall a conversation I had not long ago with Rob.

“I am not wasting another vote on Obama this coming election,” I said.

“Oh,” he replied, “you going to vote Republican?”

“I’m not going to vote at all.”

“What if Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann become president and vice-president as a result?” he asked.

“It’s less than what the people of America deserve at this point,” I said. “Maybe a horrendously awful president in the White House will be the wake up call people will finally heed.”

“Nah, ” he said, “they are all doomed.”

Felt like the crack of doom today reading Facebook feeds at the Daily Kos. The majority of the posters were completely willing to dismiss what a wiener Wiener is just because he represents their political views. Ends meet means. Like a person’s character isn’t important? Apparently it’s not when a politician is perceived as “doing his job”, but what if he was a great teacher? Would his lewd hobby with other adults sit as well?

Character counts. We beat our kids over the head with that every day in public schools all over America. Shouldn’t it count in politics? I used to believe that what a politician did in his off time wasn’t the public’s business. But not when he can’t be honest about who he is when he brings his suspect values into the public arena. A real stand up guy would take his lumps, but then a real stand up guy doesn’t cheat on his wife or embarrass those who count on him with lies and penis pictures.


Students at Wesleyan University in Connecticut have sex and they want Congress, those members ready to throw Planned Parenthood under the budget bus, to know it.

Do you have sex? Congress, the GOP and the religious right appear to think you shouldn’t – especially if you are a woman – and if you do, you should suffer Job-like travails for your audacity.

The truth about Planned Parenthood is that they spend more time providing access to healthcare to young women, underprivileged women and women without health insurance than they do providing access to abortion, which by the way is legal and nobody’s business but a woman’s and her doctor.

Planned Parenthood, at any rate, is not the problem in the debate about abortion. The problem is that some people believe that life begins at conception and some don’t. Just like some people believe in God and some don’t. And just like all things theological, Americans in particular have a really hard time respecting other people’s right to believe or not and to act upon those beliefs where their lives are concerned.

Americans practice the idea of freedom in a random manner. They believe in it for themselves personally and for other people only when it suits them.

It’s also a matter of not understanding the difference between life and existence.

And it is, sadly, yet another example of the fact that women are not valued, being reduced again and again to little more than a sex object with incubator potential.

If you believe that life begins at conception fine. Live it. Be a good example. God would approve.

What he wouldn’t approve of is forcing your will and views on those who don’t hold the same views. Aside from his tantrum in the temple, not once does Jesus ever impose his will on anyone he interacts with throughout the Gospels.

Jesus, it would seem, was a “choice” kind of guy.

If only his followers could have established such an enlightened attitude once he wasn’t around to physically keep an eye on them anymore. Perhaps the history of the world would have played out differently and perhaps people who have sex would be allowed to take responsibility in a manner that fits with their beliefs.

I don’t believe that life begins at conception. I do believe that Planned Parenthood’s services are important for women who don’t have the money or the access to gynecological services otherwise. I do think that the assault on reproductive health services in the United States is part of a widespread disrespect for female independence and civil rights and an attempt to force us further into second class status.

Oh, and I have sex. So I support your right to have sex also, if you choose, and to make decisions about your body for yourself alone. And I support Planned Parenthood.


"MARRIAGE AND PISTOL LICENSE" office...

Image via Wikipedia

New, and yet not particularly new at all, research on sex and its many tentacles wrapped around America is snaking through the Internet in various forms. One section of the report in particular garners a predictable amount of attention in our “endangered” man era, and that is the “revelation” that young men aren’t faring well academically or career-wise when compared to young women.

That the sky is falling on masculinity is not new. As early as a decade ago, the plight of boys struggling to cope with a female dominated and driven public education system was already causing much wringing of hands and dire predictions for the future. But what is causing angst now is that despite being poor catches overall, young men still set the romantic and sexual agenda and women play ball or buy a vibrator.

And I am left wondering, how this is different from when I was a twenty-something? Men were not “endangered” and yet still got to make the rules where dating and relationships were concerned. Men decide “where, when, and what type of commitment” now and always from my perspective. So nothing new to see here, people, move along.

That the problem is men has never been a real issue. This male “crisis” is just another distraction from the real problem, which is that women – to a large degree – take a long time getting over the idea that they have to bend over to have a relationship at all. We are schooled in tactical compromise from birth and foolishly never really learn to set our boundaries and walk away when they are violated.

Our training begins with each other. It’s in the feral packs that make up the mined land of girlish friendship where indoctrination begins. We can’t blame men for this. We are vicious and conniving and manipulative from near go when boys don’t matter one iota, and the prize is the “best friend” or the highest ranking social clique. Training ground zero that sets us up neatly for the games that boys and men play to maximize their “innate”* need to sow as many fertile fields as possible with the least amount of encumbrance.

I posted a link to my Facebook page from Slate’s DoubleX, summarizing the continuing state of affairs – that being that men are still encouraged by society to be schmucks, and women are expected to contort themselves in flanking maneuvers – and ended up in a discussion with a writer friend who is decidedly anti-marriage at the least and anti-monogamy at the most. Her contention – as tired and worn as feminism itself –  is that marriage is a trap. Women should strive to be militant in their abhorrence of it, and that the fact that marriage is on the downward slope (although – statistically, relationships dominate in terms of society. More of us couple exclusively than don’t) is proof that women have “come a long way, baby”.

Marriage or civil unions, in my opinion, protect both partners when the aim is a long-term – possibly life long – relationship. There is no other option that better ensures the safety of each than a certificate of binding and entwining. People who live together without any sort of legal sanction, even if they are proactive enough to change all the beneficiaries on insurance and studiously set up the joint this and that will still find themselves a signature or legal protection short at the end of that terrible day when something unthinkable happens. And something unthinkable is not just what happens to other people. Though the cohabitation crowd thinks not and begs the question, who is really the romantic with unrealistic expectations here?

But my friend, not really knowing me at all, thought my belief in marriage, and my ire at the way young people today blithely ignore reality because it gets in the way of spontaneity or is so “yesterday in a grandparent kind of way”, is based on my sweetly romantic notions about relationships.

What?

I am not sweet nor  particularly romantic. I am the women who nagged her husband of just a month to make an appointment with the lawyer so we could draw up wills, get POA’s and such settled before our marriage certificate was even inked and in the post. I am the one who point-blank told her late husband that “I don’t play house so when spring rolls around if we are not planning a wedding, I will consider myself free to pursue other options”. Knowing what you want, stating it, and acting is  – in my opinion – what “independence” means.

My marriage is quite cuddly, and I am of the opinion that married is a far preferable state to single, but that is because Rob and I work at the cuddly, fan those flames and because out of the nearly 30 years I have been legally an adult, I have spent 2/3rds of the time single. I am not easily fooled by the feminist nostalgia about “having it all” nor I am dumb enough to fall for the notion that independence is something one can only have when one is alone. Independence is an internal mindset that should not be confused with one’s physical state of being – ever.

Being single is lonely and it can be scary when push comes to shove. It’s doable. I did it. But I am not naive enough to prefer it. I am also not so unschooled in the ways of survival that I don’t know that there is a definite advantage to being properly matched and mated. I don’t advocate pairing up with just anyone. And that’s brings me back to the problem of young men and young women. The latter still believes that men can be molded and the former know this well enough to use the knowledge to get sex without deserving it.

You should like the person you live with. Respect him and be respected in turn. There should be fun and love and a willingness to throw in together come what may. There should also be a healthy realistic perspective because no relationship is perfect and bumps and ebb/flow is normal. My perception is that too few people go into relationships with any idea of where they want to ultimately be years down the road. They are suckered by the ridiculous free love notions of the 70’s and the Me/Me/Me mentality of the Boomers that is the root of a lot more than relationship issues in our society today.

I love being married, but only because I love Rob. He is my match. My lobster. There is just as much to lose as there is to gain when troths are plighted, and one must put priority on the intangibles first. Love is more important than physical independence, but it’s not attainable until you are truly independent. Only those who have the courage to state their needs and see that they are met and who listen and give in the same vein are going to find contentment in marriage. It’s only when you peel away the juvenile view of romance that you find the real thing.

*Which is just so much bullshit. Men and women are not bonobos. We are not slaves to our Jungian archetypes. The human species is the least endangered in terms of population, so the idea that men are “seed sowers” and can’t help themselves is just one more baseless argument put forth by people who are just too selfish and lazy and own – out loud – that they are selfish and lazy where relationships are concerned.


Couples at square dance, McIntosh County, Okla...

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Not many evenings ago as Rob and I sat at our desks in the home office because we still don’t have a living room and the new incredibly comfy sofa is sandwiched behind the dining room table in the space soon to be known as the kitchen, I waxed wistfully about the not so far off day when the fireplace will be operational and he and I can curl around each other in front of it.

“Like the teenager I never was, ” I said.

“We’ll need mood music,” he replied.

“70’s and make out-ish,” I concurred.

April Wine it is.”

Truthfully, I only knew the most syrupy bland ballad of their career before I met Rob. A Canadian band, most of April Wine never made it onto the American Top Forty rotation, which is a shame. And even more truthfully, the first romantic interlude Rob and I shared was soundtracked by Tool, but the former is a better V-day pick.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day, whether you celebrate or scorn it, anything that promotes love has an edge on just about everything else in the world.